Football Football

Wenger wary of loaded December fixtures


WENGER-MADLONDON, December 5 – Arsene Wenger fears a ‘heavy schedule’ in December could put Premier League leaders Arsenal at a disadvantage in their quest for success at home and abroad.

A 2-0 home win over Hull City on Wednesday, courtesy of goals from Nicklas Bendtner and Mesut Ozil, maintained the Gunners’ four-point lead at the top of the table.

Arsenal are also close to qualification from the Champions League group stage, which will be completed with a decisive match at Napoli on December 11, either side of league fixtures at home to in-form Everton on December 8 and at fellow title rivals Manchester City on December 14 in a lunchtime kick-off.

All three of these fixtures will be televised live, as will the next Premier League game on the calendar, a home game with Chelsea, currently their closest rivals for the title, on December 23 and Wenger is ruing a lack of co-ordination between the different broadcasters, which has left his team with little time to recover between matches.

“We have a very heavy schedule, that’s why I had to rest some players,” Wenger said after the win over Hull.

“Now we play Everton on Sunday and there is little distance (in time) between Everton and Naples.

“We play Wednesday night in Naples and Saturday morning against Man City so for us it’s a very, very heavy schedule.

“It’s not fair or unfair, there is just no co-ordination between the television choices. We could have played on Saturday against Everton and Sunday or Monday against Man City.

“It looks strange when you play on Saturday morning and our next game is Monday night against Chelsea 10 days later, especially when there is little time between the Champions League game on Wednesday night and the next game early on Saturday afternoon.”

Everton helped Arsenal’s cause by winning 1-0 at Manchester United on Wednesday, a result that left the reigning champions trailing the Gunners by 12 points.

But Wenger was reluctant to write off United, who developed a habit of over-taking Arsenal when Alex Ferguson was in charge at Old Trafford.

“No, it’s still early,” he said. “It (the Everton result) is a surprising defeat, yes, but we have seen that before – overhauling 12 points on us.

“But of course we have only to keep winning to have a chance and not worry too much about the others.”

Defeat left Hull in 12th place and seven points above the teams in the relegation zone.

But Tigers manager Steve Bruce felt his side were in for a tough night from the moment he saw his old star Bendtner was making a rare start for Arsenal in place of the rested Olivier Giroud.

Bruce feared the Danish striker would score against his side, having twice signed him on loan from Arsenal, first for Birmingham and then Sunderland.

It was Bendtner’s first Premier League goal for Arsenal in three years and Bruce admitted: “He’s a good boy, he’s always done well for me and it was Sod’s Law he would do that against us today.”